1.3.1- State Unifying Culture

Hammurabi’s code
By: Wilson Wong
Summary:While different empires rose and fell in the Mesopotamia, there was one major continuity in the way that governments controlled their people. As this constant aspect, Hammurabi’s code ensured that all citizens would be treated fairly in accordance with the law. Though the justice system that grew from Hammurabi’s code slightly favored those with higher social status, it was still very effective in encouraging docile behavior because of its belief in the principle of “eye for an eye” which held every citizen to the same fundamental moral expectations. The major change that came about as a consequence of Hammurabi's code was the power that the bottom ninety percent of citizens were now given to assert their rights to fair treatment to the powerful upper classes who previously could roam free and do as they pleased.
Hammurabi's code was originally written on a stone column called a stele.

The Basic Gist:
Who- Hammurabi, a king who ruled in Babylon from around 1800 BCE to 1750 BCE, created a code of laws to keep his citizens from harming each other. Nations that his laws influenced include Babylonia, Assyria, Akkad, Sumer, and the Nile Valley people.
What- Hammurabi’s code is the oldest set of laws known to man. Written on a stele in cuneiform, it can be seen as a primitive constitution that was used by a succession of Mesopotamian kings. It pioneered the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” and punishment for crime was primarily dealt out on the basis of “eye for an eye”.
When- The set of laws is dated to 1700 BCE, and was discovered in 1901 by French Egyptologists.
Where- Much of the Middle East was influenced by Hammurabi’s code; the principles documented by it were copied by many different empires as this vulnerable region of the planet was continually invaded and occupied.
Why- As populations settled into the densely populated urban centers of civilizations, conflicts inevitably arose between citizens. Although there were obvious, unwritten rules in every society that were almost never broken, Hammurabi was determined to create a common code of laws that all people had to obey. He combined the most important laws of the time and carved them onto a stone column in a temple so that his people could see what behavior was expected from them. Though most citizens were tame and would have lived fine without any laws, Hammurabi’s code had to be promulgated in order to keep the more boisterous minority in check.
How-The king of Babylon had craftsmen carve his laws into a stele, or a stone column, and then transported this column to a temple. There, it was erected for all to see so people knew now that they would be punished for unlawful behavior.

Cuneiform of the Akkadian language was used to write the laws.

Case Study Analysis:
One civilization that was profoundly affected by Hammurabi’s code was Babylonia. During Hammurabi’s rule, one king was the ultimate ruler of every single person within the empire. In order to facilitate the power of the government so extensively without inciting hatred and rebellion, a reciprocal relationship between state and citizen had to be developed. When Hammurabi introduced his code of laws, ordinary people all throughout Babylonia came to respect his rule because he had made a significant step towards providing a safe and just environment in which anyone could thrive. Although some of the laws written on the original stele tend to coddle nobles and the wealthy, these concessions were both necessary and trivial. Though in theory Hammurabi was the sole ruler of Babylonia, the rich and powerful still exerted tremendous influence on him, and certainly would have made sure to overthrow him had the code of laws been completely blind to social class. Hammurabi shrewdly inserted clauses specifying more severe punishment for crimes against nobles in order to guarantee that these nobles would still favor him after the code, which was effectively a government regulation on their power, was implemented.

Arts- People in the First Civilizations created relatively simple art. Events were depicted in bronze sculptures, and the limited job specialization at this time did not allow for truly advanced works to be created. Art from this time was crude and not detailed.
Geography- Rivers were the main geographical feature that early societies interacted with. They were used for irrigation of farmland, drinking water, dilution of wastes, and even energy, in the case of wind powered plows.
Military- Police and soldiers were developed at the same time that cities came into existence. This military force was used to defend from outside invaders and nomads, as well as to quell any internal rebellions.
Social- With the proliferation of urban centers, social stratification became more distinct. Farmers and slaves made up most of the population at the lowest class, while priests and kings made up the top of the hierarchy.
Political- The biggest change was the transition from small, independent farming communities to large cities ruled by a powerful government which collected taxes from citizens to fund public infrastructure. Most people did not have a say in who their leaders were or what the government could or could not do.
Religion- As all of the early civilizations depended heavily on rivers, many of their inhabitants developed a spiritual reverence for the bodies of water that gave life, energy, and transportation. Religion in Mesopotamia was polytheistic and likely influenced Islam, Judaism, and Christianity since many parallels have been found amongst the mythologies of these separate belief systems.
Intellectual- Justice became a major concern once the rate of dispute amongst citizens increased with the population. To counteract this, a standardized set of laws was promoted and strictly enforced by the government to prevent violence from spreading in urban cities.
Technology- Most importantly, the introduction of the plow and other farming tools played a major part in helping early societies support growing populations.
Economy- As farmers were able to produce more than enough food for themselves, they could support other people. These people used their increased leisure time to pursue separate interests including metalworking, sculpting or painting, religion, and commerce. Consequently, economies matured into more complex systems that were able to support the burgeoning empires of the First Civilizations.

When populations began to accumulate in cities, governments found it increasingly difficult to deal with the conflicts and rebellions that accompanied large groups of people. To deal with this, Hammurabi put together a fundamental code of laws that normalized punishment for crimes. Consequently, the relationship between state and citizen became far more reciprocal as people paid taxes and the government provided insurance that justice would be served in any conflict. The rule of single kings over thousands of years in Mesopotamia was able to proceed only because these leaders were relatively benevolent and all based their rule off Hammurabi’s code. In essence, the theory of equal treatment regardless of social class propagated by Hammurabi’s set of laws was what facilitated governmental rule in Mesopotamia, as it garnered support from the lower classes that formed the majority of society.
Hammurabi, the sixth king of Babylonia.

Works Cited:
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